Saturday, 24th January 2015 @ 16:44
Harlequins’ hopes of progressing through to the knockout stages of the European Rugby Champions came to a cruel end following a clinical seven try 19-47 victory over Castres Olympique.
Despite Harlequins’ impressive and dominant victory, the spoils in Coventry’s Ricoh Arena were shared meaning Leinster top Pool 2, with Wasps finishing in second place.
The bonus point win came thanks to tries from Joe Marler, Charlie Walker, Danny Care, Jack Clifford, Mark Lambert, Marland Yarde and George Lowe.
Playing during snowfall, the freezing conditions guaranteed a hard pitch, promoting Harlequins’ expansive style.
Castres enjoyed the early possession, but it was the visitors that had the early say on the scoreboard when a charge down from Jack Clifford forced Castres to kick to touch just outside their 22.
The visitors were patient in attack and, after many phases, forced a penalty. From the resulting lineout, a clever move between George Robson and Nick Easter saw captain Joe Marler driving over the line.
Castres’ response was swift two minutes later when Antoine Dupont crossed under the posts. The scrum-half began the move with a routine grubber kick deep into Harlequins territory.
Mike Brown fumbled the ball in goal and Harlequins were lucky to only concede a penalty with the scrambled defence. Castres opted for the scrum and Dupont broke from the base, slipped Brown’s tackle and scored. Julien Dumora, who had missed an earlier penalty, levelled the scores with the conversion.
The match remained expansive and Clifford was unlucky not to score in the left corner when Marcel Garvey failed to claim a clearing kick. The former England U20 captain knocked on while gathering the ball and after winning a penalty in the resulting scrum, Care’s quick tap penalty resulted in Walker darting over.
The winger came close again on the half hour mark when Clifford intercepted possession for a second time; shipping the ball to the wing he was held just short of the line before Harlequins were turned over.
As the snowfall began again five minutes from time, Evans was unable to find touch with a penalty allowing Castres to counter-attack. The visitors slipped through the defence with relative ease from half way resulting in Romain Cabannes’ try. The conversion levelled the scores at 14-14, but Harlequins secured their third score by half-time.
Nick Easter made a break on halfway preceding Brown running clear into the 22; drawing the last man, George Lowe was hauled down early without the ball resulting in Thomas Combezou being sin binned. With the clock on 40, Care made the numerical advantage count by crossing for a crucial 14-21 lead. This was also his 50th try for the club.
The second half started in electric fashion and after the hosts returned to 15 men, Harlequins secured the bonus point on 50 minutes. From a lineout, Brown grubber kicked through the line for Walker to gather; offloading to Clifford, the back-row scored and Evans converted.
Castres’ winger Remy Grosso was issued his side’s second yellow and with Harlequins working the phases in the 22, the numerical advantage allowed first half replacement prop Mark Lambert and winger Yarde to score in quick succession. This sucker punch allowed Harlequins to lead 14-40 on the hour.
Johnnie Beattie crossed for the hosts from a dominant five metre scrum, but Harlequins, who left nothing on the field had the last say when Lowe crossed in the final minute. Evans’ conversion completed the 19-47 victory.